Shape-Shifting Robots

That Magic School Bus is so LOW TECH!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Sure, Miss Frizzle’s bus could shrink down and jump inside you. Big whup. Nowadays, we can shoot drug delivery nanobots into your bloodstream. So what’s the next frontier? Would you believe shape-shifting states of matter! But how?! 

Enter Qingyuan Wang and team at Sun Yat-sen University in Shenzhen, China. 

They designed tiny robots that can SWITCH between a solid and liquid! How? They’re made of gallium and magnetic PARTICLES. The gallium melts just above room temperature. All it takes to trigger that is a magnetic FIELD! Once it cools again, it resolidifies. The magnetic PARTICLES are used so a magnet can control the robots’ movement.

These shape-shifters can move through small spaces, and reform on the other side. They’ve already been used to solder circuit boards AND deliver drugs in model stomachs. Plus, they can carry THIRTY times their weight! 

Sorry Miss Frizzle, that bus is headed to the scrap heap! Not the song though, so catchy!


Wang, Q., Pan, C., Zhang, Y., Peng, L., Chen, Z., Majidi, C., & Jiang, L. (2023). Magnetoactive liquid-solid phase transitional matter. Matter.